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We are an Army family! Miles was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 6 and he is now 18 years old. Marley is Miles' Autism Service Dog and his best friend. This dynamic duo has been together for 8 years and look forward to many more adventures! 

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgement.  
                                                       2 Timothy 1:7


Marley, An Autism Service Dog

I will thank the Lord with all my heart; 
I will declare all Your wonderful works.
                                Psalm 9:1

Marley is a 9 year old, yellow and chocolate mix, Labrador Retriever. He was born and raised by Service Dogs for America in Jud, North Dakota. Marley is Miles' Autism Service Dog. They have been working together for 8 years. They have had many great adventures and look forward to many more!

We decided to look for Miles an Autism Service Dog when our pet of 10 years passed away. He had lost his best friend who had always been there for him. This loss left Miles feeling very sad and he could not get past the grieving stage. After much prayer and research we found Service Dogs for America. 

Our hope was that a Service Dog would help Miles stay calm him when he became anxious, guide him through a crowded area if his sensory sensitivities are overwhelmed and comfort him when he got upset. Marley performs the above task and much more for Miles. Marley is Miles' best friend who goes everywhere with him, no matter where an adventure may take them!

There are many types of Service Dogs for medical conditions:

Mobility Assistance Dogs - provide mobility assistance to those using wheelchairs or other devices providing mobility assistance.

Emergency Medical Response Dogs - provide appropriate alerting behaviors in response to a seizure event (mainly diabetes and epilepsy). In the best-case scenarios they provide alerting behaviors prior to a seizure onset.

Specialty Dogs (such as Autism) - these dogs perform a variety of tasks and remain watchful for symptoms of elevated stress levels and interrupts repetitive behaviors and potentially self-harming actions before they occur. They can also help post traumatic stress disorders for veterans or assist Wounded Warriors. 

There are two choices when looking for a Service Dog. The first choice, for most people, is a FREE Service Dog. You can find several of these organizations in the US and one of the better known organizations is Canine Companions for Independence. The only drawback to a free dog is the waiting list. It can take up to 2 years before you are contacted for an available Service Dog. So if you are looking ahead this is definitely the way to go! The second choice for receiving a Service Dog is to pay the full purchase price of $15,000 and up. Most places might require you to fundraise all of the money before receiving one of their dogs. Make sure you check out more than one organization when looking for a Service Dog. 

Miles' training through Service Dogs for America lasted 3 weeks. The staff at this organization were helpful, patient and friendly. Learning a new task can be very daunting and overwhelming for Miles but the staff at Service Dogs of America made Miles feel very comfortable. 

His first week was spent learning commands and how to perform everyday tasks while maneuvering a dog around objects in their path. The dogs have many verbal and hand command signals they obey. Miles had to learn how to give these commands correctly. He practiced with a few other dogs that were potential matches including Marley. The organization had already thought that Marley would be the perfect match for Miles in personality and temperament but they wanted to be sure. After a week of working with all of the other dogs Miles was told Marley would be his Service Dog. 

For the next 2 weeks Miles and Marley were inseparable. They worked everyday at becoming a team. We would take them out for shopping trips, sightseeing, to restaurants for lunch and they spent plenty of time playing together. It was very important that they form a bond of friendship and trust. It didn't take Marley long to figure out he liked being a part of a family!

At the end of the 3 weeks in North Dakota, Miles and Marley took their public access test and we took Marley for his final checkup with the Vet. The staff at Service Dogs for America made us feel like part of their team. The community of Jud made us feel welcomed and like one of their own. It was an amazing experience!

Marley enjoys working and going everywhere with Miles. This includes school, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, stores and more.

Marley knows that when his cape gets put on it's time to work! PLEASE if you ever see a working team DO NOT ask to PET the Service Dog. It has taken a lot of training to teach the Service Dog to ignore other people when working. Petting causes the Service Dog to be distracted. It is also a distraction to the person (handler) who is working with the dog. A small distraction to you is a big distraction to them. Thank you for understanding. 

The life of a Service Dog is not all work. Marley knows the difference between working and "a day off." When the cape is off he's free to play, run and be a dog. 

Marley has made a huge difference in Miles' life. We are thankful for the friends, family, Soldiers  and of course the kindness of strangers that have made all of our fundraisers, to pay for Marley, a success. Blessings to you all! 

Do you have a Service Dog? Share your story with us!

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